Sustainability for Kids: Tips from a Professional
Raising a generation of environmentally responsible children might be the most important planetary task at hand. Luckily, raising earth-loving kids isn’t rocket science and conscientious parents can pass on their commitment to sustainability just by following a few guidelines. In fact, living in an earth-friendly home is really the first step and that’s one you’re probably already doing, naturally.
Walk the Walk
Children learn more from what you do than from what you say. A parent who talks about the benefits of reducing waste without following through isn’t likely to drive home the lesson they’re trying to impart. Buying in bulk, avoiding excess packaging and recycling are the skills we want our children to have, so in addition to implementing those practices in our home, it’s important to discuss why we’re making these decisions.
Grow a Garden
Don’t use the “limited space” excuse, if you have a sunny window, you can grow herbs. Just do it. There’s a family in Alaska that has turned their spare bedroom into a year-round organic veggie farm, using grow lights. Visiting farms and larger gardens, and picking up eggs from a local free-range ranch are small decisions that can make a big impact in a child’s life. Include the children in the shopping, when you purchase things locally, let your kids know that keeping the money in town matters.
Watch the Trucks Go By
Next time you’re at a stop light, have a conversation about the way goods are shipped all over the place. Shipping products takes time, fuel and money. Strive to purchase locally grown and manufactured products and use your daily conversations as a means to give your children a community awareness. Let every day trip turn into an exploration of the bounties of your region.
Children learn by asking questions all the time, adults can, too. Are there any organic dairy farms in your area? Ask around until you find one. What does the computer recycling facility do with the computers? Ask them. Schedule a walk-through tour of your local sewage treatment facility, meat packing plant and herb gardens. Sharing your interest in the way things work is a great way to raise kids who aren’t afraid to ask questions and smart enough to make decisions based on what they learn.
Love the Outdoors
The easiest and most rewarding practice for families to engage in is harboring a love of the outdoors. Whether it means you’re camping int he backyard in a chaise lounge, or driving up to a remote primitive cabin for a week every summer. Allowing kids the freedom to explore the great outdoors and create their own adventures is a great way to foster a love of the natural world that will stay with them for a lifetime.
Raising kids who appreciate sustainability is more than just a matter of relating dismal facts about the state of the environment, it’s about modeling compassion for the earth’s resources, her people and communities. Who knows, your child may even grow into career that nurtures the environment!
Photo credit: garden by Charles Hutchins/flickr; fun outside by noquarter/flickr
Jenny Masterson is a career counselor who specializes in emerging “green” career paths. She also writes for thebestcolleges.org, a website providing lists and information about online colleges, as well as top college reviews and ratings.